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Should You Tell Your Buyer's Agent the Highest Price You Will Pay?

The Case for Not Sharing Your Highest Sales Price With Your Agent


sharing a secret

It might be risky to tell your agent how high you will go.

© Big Stock Photo
You might be tempted to tell your agent everything, including the top price you will pay for a home. After all, your buyer's agent is supposed to be on your side and keep your information confidential.

This reminds me of my mother's advice from a long time ago. She used to tell me that the only sure-fired way to safeguard a secret was to keep my trap shut. After I share a secret with another person, it may no longer be a secret.

It's Not That You Can't Trust Your Agent; It's That Agents Can Slip Up

When my clients write an offer, I often advise them to keep their top sales price private. I truly do not want to know how high they will go. My job, when I am a buyer's agent, is to present and negotiate the offer I have in my hand. With blinders on.

If I know the buyer will pay more, that knowledge could possibly weaken my conviction. Not that I would willingly violate a fiduciary relationship with a buyer, but I am human, just like anybody else.

See, when the shoe is on the other foot and I am the listing agent, I am generally able to wrangle out of buyers' agents how much higher their buyers will go. It could be a slip of tongue over a single word or a shift in the tone of voice that I'll pick up on. Sometimes they just blab it out.

Although I am confident that I would never break a client's trust and accidentally spill the beans to the listing agent, it's possible that the listing agent may also be sensitive to subtle clues like I am. If I make myself believe that I am presenting my buyer's highest and best offer, my case for offer acceptance rings through loudly.

Why You Should Not Tell Your Agent Your Top Price

Right after writing an offer, it's common for home buyers to play through scenarios in their heads. They can drive themselves crazy by this process, but they can't seem to help it. Here are some of their thoughts:

  • What will we do if the seller outright rejects our offer?

  • Should we tell the seller we will consider a counter offer?

  • If the seller accepts our offer, maybe we offered too much.

  • Maybe the seller will be insulted because we offered too little.

  • If the seller counters at full price, should we accept that price or should we make a counter offer?

  • If the Seller writes a counter for $10,000 more than our offer, should we split the difference and increase the sales price by $5,000?

All of this may result in an urge to tell your buyer's agent exactly how much you will pay. That's understandable. As a buyer, you want and need strategic advice.

But my advice is don't cross the bridge twice. Deal with a known quantity. Apart from the examples above, there are dozens of ways a seller can react to an offer. Much depends on factors such as the temperature of the marketplace, competition for the home, available financing, and the seller's motivation. Offers should be structured from the beginning with those conditions in mind.

When buyers tell me they want to share in advance how high they will go, I feel a need to put my fingers in my ears and sing: "lalalalalala." I don't need to know at that point. My practice is if we receive a counter offer, we should develop a strategy based on that counter offer. To do otherwise wastes mental energy and can drive you nuts. Every situation is different. Why plan out your next 10 chess moves if the king is in checkmate?

The best outcome, of course, is the seller will accept the buyers' offer upon presentation. And that, believe it or not, happens all the time.

At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, DRE # 00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.

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